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Pope to declare Blessed Joseph Vaz saint: report

COLOMBO/PANAJI: Sri Lanka will get its first saint during a visit by Pope Francis in January next year, media reported on Saturday.
Addressing a media briefing at an archbishop’s house in Sri Lanka, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith said the canonisation process of Blessed Joseph Vaz is in its final stages, The Island reported.
Blessed Joseph Vaz was from Goa and arrived in Sri Lanka during the Dutch occupation when Catholicism faced several challenges and by the time of his death in Kandy he had managed to rebuild the Catholic Church.
Approval from the College of Cardinals would see Blessed Joseph Vaz being elevated to sainthood, he said.
Blessed Joseph Vaz is known as the Apostle of Ceylon and was beatified during the visit of Pope John Paul II to Sri Lanka in 1995.
The theme during Pope Francis’ visit to Sri Lanka will be ‘Abide in Love’.
Pope Francis will arrive in Sri Lanka on January 13, 2015.
However, the Goa Church has its fingers crossed over the reports on canonisation of Blessed Joseph Vaz.
“Catholics in Goa and Sri Lanka are hoping that the canonisation of Blessed Joseph Vaz will happen as soon as possible. We have been hoping for a long time,” the secretary to the Archbishop in Goa, Fr Joaquim Loiola Pereira, told IANS.
“We have no intimation that it will happen during the Pope’s visit to Sri Lanka. We would not wish to speculate on the likelihood or not because it is not in our hands,” Pereira said.
Blessed Joseph Vaz was born in Goa in 1651 before leaving for Sri Lanka.
According to media reports, Pope Francis has refused to use a bulletproof vehicle as done by his predecessors when he will visit Sri Lanka.
Pope Francis will hold a public mass along the iconic shoreline of Colombo during his visit, an official said on Friday while announcing official details of the tour.
The mass on Colombo’s Galle Face will be held on the morning of January 14, 2015. The mass will be closely followed by a visit to the Madhu Church in northern Sri Lanka, which is considered to be the oldest Christian shrine in the island, the Archbishop of Colombo, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, told reporters, Xinhua reported.
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith announced last month that Pope Francis would visit the historical Madhu Shrine during his stay in Sri Lanka in January next year.
With a history of more than 400 years, the Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu in the district of Mannar is considered the holiest Catholic shrine in Sri Lanka.
Madhu is a place of worship for both the Sinhalese and the Tamils and has been considered a symbol of unity between the two communities. It is located in Sri Lanka’s former northern war zone and this will be the first papal visit to the region.
The Pope is also scheduled to meet Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Pope Francis is the third Catholic Church Pope to visit Sri Lanka. Pope Paul VI visited the country in December 1970 while Pope Saint John Paul II paid a visit in January 1995.

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